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Pat Metheny - Unity Band CD (album) cover


Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars I just noticed that there are not yet any reviews of Pat Metheny's last three albums here on PA. This one is the first album from Pat's 'Unity Band', which includes Chris Potter on saxophones, Ben Williams, and the amazing Antonio Sanchez on drums. This album is, for the most part, more laid back than the follow-up 'Kin', which would include the same core lineup but add Giulio Carmassi on trumpet and other multiple instruments, creating the 'Unity Group' (as opposed to 'Band'). Unlike 'Kin', which will appeal to those who love progressive rock and not necessarily jazz, to like this 'Unity Band' album you will need to love jazz. But for those who do, it is really excellent jazz. The feel is set by first mellow guitar lines of the excellent 'New Year', followed by the equally excellent 'Roof Dogs'. The latter has become a common staple of Metheny's live show, and is among only two songs on this album with lots of energy, excellent fast high-pitched synth-guitar and sax solos (the other is the fast last song - 'Breakdealer'). 'Roof Dogs' is also likely the song that will appeal most to those who like the more progressive Metheny Group pieces. The rest of the album is mostly quiet and melodic (the first two minutes of Signals is a bit RIO, but it morphs into a great quiet slow piece), with Metheny playing his regular signature guitar sound on most songs (Roof Dogs is the main exception). To my mind, there is not a bad song on this album, and the compositions are excellent. I have listened to this album >20 times already. I like it slightly better than 'Kin'. I give it 8.5 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.
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Posted Friday, February 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars American guitarist and composer Pat Metheny has been one of my central jazz favourites since I got interested in jazz/fusion in the early 90's, but I haven't kept track of his latest output very closely. Orchestrion (2010) was very good, and exceptional in a way that Metheny is the only musician in it, playing 'orchestrion' (incl. pianos, marimbas, bells, basses, "guitarbots," percussion, cymbals, drums, loads of tuned bottles, and synth and fabricated acoustic instruments) with the use of advanced solenoid switch technology and pneumatics. Orchestrionics are occasionally heard also in this rather traditional-sounding contemporary jazz album, named after the line-up, ie. the quartet featuring Metheny, his trusted drummer Antonio Sanchez plus two new collaborators: Chris Potter (tenor & soprano saxes, bass clarinet) and Ben Williams (acoustic bass). All nine compositions are by Metheny who also produced the album.

The opener 'New Year' gives a good picture of the whole album, centering on the acoustic guitar's mellow approach and the strong melodicism of the tenor saxophone. Superb 'Roofdogs' has the distinctive guitar-synth sound familiar from the Pat Metheny Group era. 'Come and See' expands the sonic pallette with some kantele-like guitar and a bass clarinet, while also the rhythm section sounds great. Also tracks 4-6 are safe enjoyments for a Metheny listener, balancing between delicacy and the jazz liveliness represented mainly by tenor sax.

11˝-minute 'Signals (Orhestrion Sketch)' has more experimental vibes especially in the beginning, with live loops both from Metheny's Orchestrion -- lots of various percussion! -- and the band. Mellow 'Then and Now' gives the tenor sax very song-like melodic role. If the album in general feels slightly too safe and ordinary to the advanced Metheny listener, the fast-paced closing piece 'Breakdealer' will bring a welcome edginess. For me, this is a good Metheny album, not necessarily offering obvious, emotionally strong highlights like several Metheny albums I've listened to, but no mediocre tracks either within its nearly 66 minutes. Did I already mention that the playing of this quartet is excellent? I'd give 3˝ stars if I could, but rounding it down (on the Pat Metheny scale!) definitely doesn't mean this wasn't very good contemporary jazz featuring guitar and the regular tenor sax in a pretty democratic quartet approach.

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Posted Monday, November 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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